Wood fired Chicken Meatball Orecchietta Pasta

This recipe is fantastic. Compliments to Giada De’Laurentiis.  Preparing this on the wood fired oven capped it off and made it truly excellent. 

Link – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/orecchiette-with-mini-chicken-meatballs-recipe.html

Starting with the chicken, boneless skinless chicken thighs. Grind them as she says in her recipe. I used my Kitchen Aid meat grinder. After mixing everything by hand, I made the meatballs and then dropped them in the freezer to pick up a chill. 

Cooking in a skillet in the wood fired oven is my new passion. I have become increasingly addicted to the power that you have in an 800+ degree oven. Cooking on my gas cooktop just does not “cut it” any longer. 

This recipe was well suited for the wood fire. First frying the meatballs and getting a good crisp coating on two sides was desired. Then after that, pour on the chicken stock and all the cherry tomatoes. Put it back in the oven. You may need a lid for some of this time.  In my case, this was cooked largely with the lid off. 

Cool the pasta- I did mine in the house and had it ready with a cup of Pasta water that I had standing buy. 

When the meatballs are ready, put the pasta water in your pot that has the drained pasta in it and stir to get the pasta “unstuck” if you will. Next pour all the pasta in the pan and drop in 8 oz of mozzarella with the chopped basil. 

Slide that back in the oven with the lid on. 

Let it hang out and get good and melted, then stir. 

This dish is ready!


More progress on the wood fired oven. 

View into my herb garden and a look at the new construction as I close the dome. Soon to have brick veneer and porch lights to finish it off. Beautiful morning, Good day to cook! Notice the San Marzanos on the left! 


Daou Mountain


Daou Vineyards, home to some of the best wine you can get in Paso Robles, is sitting at one of the highest elevations in the area. Roughly at 2100 feet, with spectacular views in nearly every direction.

Residents and visitors to the area are lucky to have such a place to enjoy. Owned by two brothers they work hard to make world class wine and for me, I appreciate that.

On a visit to the winery one day, I asked them….”Tell me, why is your wine priced where it is…it is not inexpensive”

Daniel Daou let me know a few things that stuck with me.
First he explained that there was a lot of “love” in his wine. That caused a chuckle….but what he meant was that they are doing a few things that most people won’t do. Spending time that others wouldn’t bother to take.

For instance –
They plant 3 times as many vines per acre at 2100 per acre instead of 700. They then prune them down to, I think he said, 8 bushels per vine. Normally they would be pruned to 24. This means they will get the same yield but do it with simply less bushels per plant to allow the bunches to develop better while going after the ultimate goal, to ripen together. Less bushels to worry about and more energy given from each vine to help them grow into beautiful nice bushels.

He explained to me that they grow the vines at 30 inches from the ground instead of 36 inches. This one was one that I didn’t quite understand. My memory tells me that he said that it allows for a larger canopy of leaves to protect and feed the bushels. This cost them significantly more money to pick as the workers that pick the grapes have to use stools or something to sit on at that lower level. Typically grapes are picked by a machine or with workers walking through on foot picking everything.

They free flow all the juice. This means that prior to barreling, the juice is fermented in big stainless steel vats. It is a choice of winemakers to either press the juice, press all the stems and pieces that are in the container or open it up and let the juice pour out. Depending on the choice, some wineries press theirs and some don’t. Daou chooses not to put pressed juice in their wine. Instead they sell that juice. The result, as they explained to me, is simply better juice..used for premium wines.

Next he described the process of cleaning everything and the fact that they use reverse osmosis water. Trying to use good clean water for the things you are cleaning makes sense to me. I don’t know if it really helps.

I appreciate the extra effort that goes into each and every bottle. The wine is fantastic and every person that I take out undergoes the same process….we hit a couple places, 2 or 3 and then we go up to Daou Mountain. We always get something or bring something to eat. We always taste a bit and then we buy a bottle or two to enjoy on the spot. The white wine is a favorite for the sunny Paso Robles weather. I have yet to be disappointed by the fresh fruity silky taste of the Grenache Blanc or the Chemin De Fleur – Particularly these two white wines can stand up to the best there is.

The grounds and everything about the winery is done with a “Spare no expense” attitude. It is a really nice place.


In my world, I like to find things that I like.. and go do them. It is clear by the topic of my Blog that I like food. I like to take my time and cook something worth eating. I like to have friends over and engage in conversation while sipping some of Paso’s finest wine. Daou is often poured. We try to pour it last because you can’t go on to other stuff after you open the Daou. Just don’t waste it if you are having a little too much fun.

If you want to enjoy a spectacular view, some great people and drink something really worth drinking…head to Paso, check out Daou Mountain and I can guarantee you will enjoy yourself.


Wood Fired Chops


Start with the best quality pork you can find. In my case, I was able to find some really thick “Bone in” specimens at my local Whole Foods store.

They were fantastic, here is what I did.

Pork Chops can quickly go from “Ok” to “Great with a few Tweaks.

Start with a marinade:

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon asian sweet chili sauce
2 cloves garlic – minced
4 (1/2-inch-thick) boneless pork chops
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Marinade in the refrigerator overnight or as long as you can – same day.

Get a Bottle of red wine started. Enjoy a little while you prepare this.
Light the wood fire and get the cast iron pan ready.

Put some oil in the pan and put the pan in the oven. no more than 350 degrees for frying.
Take the Pork Chops out of the marinade and sprinkle some salt on them. Drop them in the frying pan and gently pan fry them. Leave them in the cast iron for a few minutes per side and give them a good crust – usually 4-7 minutes. You will need to watch how hot things are and judge this. Flip and repeat.

When they look great, pull them off of the heat and put them on a plate.
Take the marinade that you used and pour that in the pan.
Pour in a good 1/4 cup of red wine that you had in your glass. Basically a nice pour.

Let this marinade cook for a few minutes and reduce. It will thicken a bit.
Is should simmer nicely be careful not to burn it.

Return the Pork Chops to the pan and finish them with a live flame if you can. Basically, put a couple pieces of wood on the fire and return everything nice and hot and give them just a little time in there.

Serve with Jasmine rice and use pour some of the sauce over your rice or vegetables.

Cooking to perfection


After finally getting my oven built, before I could finish it, cooking commenced. I have been learning how to use it and experimenting on many aspects of this great tool.

The oven is like a very expensive pan or pot. It is just an oven at the end of the day. It can get really hot and holds heat energy in ways we aren’t accustomed to. If you think about gear of any kind, the better the equipment, the better the outcome. The wood fired oven is no different than a beautiful Le Crueset Pot in that it cooks evenly and distributes heat more evenly.

Heat from an open flame will give different results as it cooks from the top down. Anything that you want to finish or crisp up will enjoy this extra bolt of heat.

Below you will see an apple pie that started out baking with a lid on top to get the apples as hot as possible and give them time to cook. After about 45 minutes, taking the lid off will allow you to finish the crust. Utilizing an open flame will accelerate this.

Perfect Pizza Dough

Pizza that will make you salivate, that will make you crave the salt and the cheese, the hint of tomato and the specialty meats that can be on board, is not easy to do. Well it can be if you have the right ingredients and take the time to learn how it is done.

Basically, one of a few tricks is to start with the right dough. Once you have this right, you can traverse over to other things that are required in this complex but simple equation. Putting together the right combination for world class or “Backyard” class pizza is something that you should experiment with. Find what you like and find what liven’s up your taste buds and then make it! make it for others, they will flock to your house to find out how good it is. 🙂

For me, at first I was focused on meat pizza’s. Pretty much wanting to replicate what I was getting delivered and make it better. That morphed into enjoying anything I could find that was fresh…..Fresh Basil, right out of my herb garden. Fresh tomatoes sliced thin, or fresh bell pepper. Add a little fresh fig and some goat cheese and you can really make something great. Add in some prosciutto and get a little hint of salt and BAM!! You will have something your friends will want more of.

Favorite pizza right now is – Traditional Parma Pizza with San Marzano sauce – Olive oil – Mozzarella, Prosciutto and then topping with Arugula and drizzling Balsamic Vinegar on top. Epic, crazy good.

Drop some sliced figs on this if you can find them fresh, cook them with the pizza and apply the Arugula after it is out of the oven.

Here is the dough –

1000 Grams Antimo Caputo Flour 00

650 Grams Water

20 Grams Salt

6 Grams Yeast

Use your Scale, This is done with Antimo Caputo Flour. It’s fine grind makes a luxuriously good crust. Based on the recipe from Peter Reinhardt but eliminating the Olive Oil. I found that it was better with out it.

Make your dough, and let it sit overnight in the Fridge.
This is a two day dough and this is a must for the correct flavor. Use good yeast and you will have some great pop.

If you have a wood fired oven, take this out of the fridge when you light your oven. Two hours later this dough will be ready to stretch and will be easy to work with. Top it lightly and let it cook….Enjoy